The Breithaupt Block: coming to our neighbourhood soon

The June 16 meeting of the NMA (Neighbourhood Mobilization Alliance) was packed full of excitement and intrigue. We had a guest speaker, Craig Beatty from Perimeter Development Corp (a Toronto company). Mr. Beatty had worked for First Gulf who have transformed the downtown (or “uptown”) Waterloo area and Perimeter Development was created by a group of former First Gulf executives.

Perimeter Development have purchased several former industrial properties in Galt (Cambridge) and have also acquired the former Collins and Aikman building at Breithaupt and King Street in Kitchener (beside the train tracks). This is what the building currently looks like (click on image to enlarge):

For a short introduction to its recent history, click here to read an interesting article from the Guelph Mercury. At the end of that article a real estate agent calls it a “challenge property”.

Apparently, Perimeter Development likes a challenge because they have bought it and have been cleaning it up for the past few months. Mr. Beatty explained they have great plans for turning it into a valuable office space they are calling the “Breithaupt Block”. It sits on about four acres of land and the total space is about 250,000 square feet including the basement.

There are actually several core buildings and many additional structures that have been built on. After clearing out tons of old equipment Mr. Beatty said they will tear down some of the “tin shed additions” and “adaptively reuse” the main buildings. He said they have uncovered some “fabulous spaces” in these brick and beam concrete buildings.

In a brochure presented to the NMA Mr. Beatty presented an elegant vision that is a considerable upgrade from the existing facility (click on image to enlarge):

Mr. Beatty indicated this was a minimum three year project composed of a large “King Street building” with a glassy facade (as a counterpart to the School of Pharmacy across the street) and then five other buildings with two shared courtyards, glass enclosed elevators, sandblasted brick etc.

This is a very exciting project for those of us in the area who are used to walking past the semi-derelict buildings full of smashed windows. Mr. Beatty had asked to address the NMA to keep us aware of their plans and, we imagine, to generate a bit of excitement over the development plans.

Some residents posed questions. For example, “are there any historic photos inside?” and the answer is “no”. What about equipment that might be re-used as historic structures throughout Kitchener? Mr. Beatty said there was one wheel they were going to use as a centre piece in one of their courtyards. And that they were in contact with the city over zoning and other regulations, but no one had mentioned artifacts. John Smola was present and it was arranged that the city administrator in charge of historic artifacts would contact Perimeter Development.

Another resident asked about the standards that would be applied during the tear down of some structures and the renovation of others. Mr. Beatty said all contractors they hire adhere to provincial and municipal standards and the city regularly conducts inspections. The resident made the point that the site may be zoned commercial, but it is very close to residences and people are worried about asbestos and other contaminants.

The NMA asked to be kept in the loop as this development goes forward. There are a few issues about the safety of residents during construction, but overall it seems very positive and we appreciate the time Mr. Beatty took to speak to all of us.

We will post more information as this project takes shape.

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